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Today I’m sharing my easy “skim coat like a pro” process to get a super smooth wall with minimal fuss. You can use this process to smooth a textured wall, taper out tape seams after fresh drywall, or repair a damaged wall from ripping off wallpaper.
If you’ve ever tried your hand at skim coating or layering on joint compound, you probably know that it takes a little finesse and can be a lot frustrating to get that super smooth finish. After testing out a few processes, this is my tried and true method that I’ve used several times with excellent results!
If you’re doing a large wall, you will want to buy the large size of joint compound as you will go through it quickly. The 4.5 gallon size will run you around $10-$12. For reference, I will use 2 large tubs for an average size room. Joint compound out of the tub will be the consistency of thick peanut butter. You will want to add small amount of water and mix using a drill and attachment until you reach the consistency of thick pancake batter… or whip cream.
Note: DO NOT use old joint compound… only use fresh, never opened. Even a tiny bit of dried up compound in your tub will ruin your results. Trust me on this.
Using a heavy nap roller (3/4″) apply the mixture to the wall in a thick layer. Make sure that the layer is heavy enough where you can’t see the wall. You want to make sure you have a consistent enough coverage to fill in any texture.
Note: If you have any large bumps or areas that are much higher than the wall, it would be good to take a 5″ putty knive and scrape the wall down before starting. Then make sure and wipe down the wall so you are starting with a clean wall, no dirt. I don’t have a picture of this because I didn’t need to, but your wall might need this.
Below is a close up of what the layer of joint compound should look like (on the left). You will want to work in small 2-3′ sections, as the compound will start to dry quickly. If the edges dry too quickly (they tend to be a thinner layer), take your spray bottle and gently spray the edges before using your trowel.
This is where the magic happens! The magic trowel basically does all the work for you. Starting at the top of the section, drag the trowel down with gentle pressure to smooth the mixture flat to the wall. The compound should magically fill in the gaps and give you a pretty even surface. Overlap the next section by 3-4″ until you’ve smoothed the entire section that you are working with. Don’t worry about it being perfect. You can fix any lines or uneven spots after it dries. Also, make sure that you wipe the trowel clean before each pass. This will help keep the results clean and smooth.
If you have very heavy texture, you might need to let the first coat dry and repeat the process. You will know pretty quickly after starting if this applies to you.
Notice the small drag marks in the picture below. That is from small pieces of dried joint compound. This is what you DON’T want. I worked with it and got the result I wanted, but it will be much easier if don’t give yourself this problem.
You will want to let the compound dry completely. It could be dry in as little as 4 hours, but I like to let mind dry overnight. If you’ve ever sanded down drywall, you know that it IS NOT FUN. Drywall dust is dirty, dusty, messy, and literally will cover your entire house in a thin layer of lingering snow in a matter of minutes. If you are willing to put in a little extra elbow grease, I recommend trying to smooth down any imperfections with a damp sponge. I used a tiling sponge that was only slightly damp (you should not be able to wring water out of it) and “sanded” the wall. If you are actually removing the joint compound, then it’s too wet. The result should be just enough to smooth out any rough edges and give you a nice smooth wall… with no dust! Notice the streak in the middle of the photo below. This is the area that I smoothed down with a sponge. Magical.
After smoothing down your entire wall, make sure and use a good primer before painting or installing wallpaper. As a general rule, joint compound should always be coated with primer before painting. Happy skimming!
If you want to see some a video version of all of these steps, I saved a highlight on my Instagram page called “Skim Coating”. You can find that and tons of other fun tutorials over there!
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Wife, Mama, Renovator, DIY Educator, and Founder of Making Pretty Spaces. If you’re ready to create a home you love with your own two hands, I’m your girl.